New study: CPOE reduces medication errors

July 13, 2007

Computerized physician order entry, now used in about 9 percent of U.S. hospitals, has been hypothesized to reduce medication errors, but the evidence to date has been inconsistent.

Computerized physician order entry, now used in about 9 percent of U.S. hospitals, has been hypothesized to reduce medication errors, but the evidence to date has been inconsistent. A new study of the results of 12 clinical investigations finds that the use of CPOE, compared with handwritten orders, reduced medication errors in adults by 66 percent. However, the results were heterogeneous and did not show a "substantial improvement" in patient safety, according to the paper published in Health Services Research.

Only one of the cited studies was a randomized controlled trial. The types of CPOE systems in the cited studies varied widely, and most of the trials were conducted in teaching hospitals. Hence, they were not generalizable, according to the researchers. Also, they note, "Sites that use CPOE still experience high rates of medication errors and ADEs [adverse drug events]."